Abandoned On Our Behalf

In last week’s Grace eNews, the Pastors shared some resources to help us understand how to do Word Studies as part of our Bible study. As part of his preparation for last week’s sermon on Psalm 22, Pastor Sam did a word study on ‘abandoned’ and he shares with us some of what he has learnt.

God’s promise not to leave or abandon Israel

A study of the word ‘abandon’ in the Old Testament (Heb: Azab) reveals that it is a particularly theologically loaded word associated with God’s covenant with Israel. As part of God’s covenant with Israel, He promises to never leave them nor abandon them (eg Gen 28:15, Deut 31:6). This promise is repeated or recalled throughout Israel’s history (eg Josh 1:5 and 1 Kings 6:13).  

The Psalmist’s recollection of how God heard the cries of his fathers in the past in verses 4-5 has strong parallels with God’s rescue of Israel from Egypt (eg Ex 2:23-25; 6:4-5) which describes how God rescued His people in response to their cries. Furthermore, these passages in Exodus make explicit that God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was the basis of His rescue of them. 

God’s people abandon Him

God used Moses to warned them against abandoning Him (Deut 28:20), but they repeatedly abandoned God for other gods (1 Sam 8:8, 1 Sam 12:10, 1 Kings 9:9, 2 Kings 22:17, Isa 1:4, Jer 1:16). As a result, mirroring the fall of Adam and Eve (Gen 3:24) God abandons His people by exiling them out of the promised land (Lam 1:3 and 5:20), and goes silent and distant. 

Christ the true, suffering and abandoned King

Continuing the word study on ‘abandon’ in the New Testament (Gk: egkataleipou), Christ’s cry on the cross was a direct quotation of the words of verse 1 (Matt 27:46, Mk 15:34), verbalising what He was going through. The writer of the book of Hebrews writes that a result of Christ’s being forsaken on the cross, is that the Christian can enjoy the promises God made to the Israelites under the Old Covenant, that “[He] will never leave you nor abandon you” (Heb 13:5b, which quotes Deut 31:6). Paul similarly picks up this theme that a Christian need not fear being abandoned by God again (2 Cor 4:9). 

Putting it all together

The themes explored above are significant, because they mean that Christians can directly apply Psalm 22 to ourselves. Despite feeling as though God has abandoned us, we can exhort ourselves to praise Him and look forward to the day of vindication under His universal Kingship in the confidence of His promise that He will never abandon us.

However, while the message to the Christian is similar to the message to the original audience in this sense, there is a significant difference. Whereas the Israelites applied Psalm 22 under the old Mosaic Covenant, Christians apply it under the New Covenant, based on the finished work of Christ on the cross (eg Matt 26:28), He was abandoned on our behalf.